Beef or brotherly love?
That’s the line drawn on J. Cole’s KOD album closer, “1985,” wherein he doles out industry advice that can teeter on diminutive. The track, of course, is partly a response to an earlier diss from new school mainstay Lil Pump. But following KOD’s release, the two have since reconciled, connected at Rolling Loud Festival, and had their newfound relationship culminate to an hour-long interview-conversation at The Sheltuh.
The existence of this interview is in itself momentous but falls short of its potential. Cole is exceptionally engaged when Pump speaks, opening the interview itself with some backstory on his reverence for the young man’s intelligence and navigation of the industry. Lil Pump, on the other hand, approaches the conversation with overt trepidation, obvious in the nervous ticking with his hands and sparse answers to Cole’s questions.
The discomfort is heavy, and while Cole does his best to pick away at the tension, the interview plays like footage of someone’s first attempt to babysit a family friend’s son: you should be connecting, but he’s just not into it.
Not for nothing, though, Cole admits to being a curmudgeon upon seeing a XXL Freshman cypher from 2016, saying, "I was like, 'Damn, this shit really over,'" then quickly admitting he was dead wrong. His humility at this moment is admirable and should serve as an example for how we bridge the "cultural divide" he acknowledges earlier in the interview.
Which is why, despite the awkwardness, the interview stands for something much larger than itself, for the dissolution of this tired battle of old versus new. We know by now that time is not linear, and pitting sounds and artists against one another for media fodder does little to help hip-hop grow.
J. Cole and Lil Pump sitting down at The Sheltuh speaks to hip-hop’s ability to connect people, and Cole’s willingness to break through Lil Pump’s exterior, his willingness to learn, is what makes the genre of hip-hop, on the whole, one of the most moving and evocative art forms.